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Our Lady of Loreto

Our Lady of Loreto is the title of the Virgin Mary with respect to the Holy House found in Loreto. The Litany of Loreto was approved by the Catholic Church in 1587 with an attached Mass. Pope Benedict XV declared the Madonna of Loreto the patron saint of air travelers and pilots and in 1922 Pope Pius XI granted the statue a Canonical Coronation.

On October, 2019, Pope Francis decreed that Our Lady of Loreto was to be celebrated on December 10th as a reoccurring optional memorial of the church. The decree was published on October 31st by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. In his decree, Pope Francis writes:

That sanctuary recalls the mystery of the Incarnation and prompts all those who visit it to consider the fullness of time, when God sent his Son, born of a woman, and to meditate on both the words of the angel in the Gospel and the words of Virgin who answered the divine call. Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, the humble servant of the Lord has become the house of divinity, the most pure image of the holy Church.
The aforementioned sanctuary, closely linked to the Apostolic See, praised by the Supreme Pontiffs and universally known, has been able to illustrate in an excellent way, over time, no less than Nazareth in the Holy Land, the evangelical virtues of the Holy Family.

Pope Francis visiting the Holy House

Our Lady of Loreto refers specifically to the Holy House in which the Blessed Ever Virgin Mary lived along side the Holy Family (Saint Joseph and Jesus Christ) while in Judea. It is the house where the Virgin Mary received the Annunciation, conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit, raised Jesus in his childhood and she herself had been born in and lived in. After the Ascension of Christ, the Apostles placed an altar in the church where Saint Peter celebrated the first Eucharist after the Resurrection.

The house is built of three stone walls with a door on the north side and a window on the west side. Inside the Altar of the Apostles can be found and is considered to be the authentic Altar built by Saint Peter and the Apostles. A niche can be found that is 33 inches tall and containing a image of the Virgin and Child - a statue made of Lebanon cedar, adorned with jewels and placed above the Altar. Legend holds that it was Saint Luke who sculpted it.

Around the house is a marble screen that was built under Popes Leo XI, Clement VII and Paul III. The four sides of this marble screen represent the Annunciation, Nativity, Arrival of the Santa Casa at Loreto and the Nativity of the Virgin.

Angelic Tradition

In 336 AD, the Empress Helena took up a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and after visiting the church (the home had been converted into a church when the Altar was erected - also known as the Altar of the Apostles) had a basilica built around the house so that worship could continue. Following the fall of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, the tradition holds that as Muslim soldiers Nazareth, angels appeared and miraculously carried the house and laid it down in 1291 on a hill at Tersatto (Now Trsat, in Croatia).

In Croatia, the local priest awoke to find the house now not far from the church and after praying for knowledge, was gifted with the knowledge of where the house had come from. Here in Croatia, numerous miracle cures are attested to, as well as an appearance of the Virgin Mary. Several investigations were made by the governor of Dalmatia at Nazareth, all confirming that it was indeed the house.

In 1294, just three years later, the house was again carried away by Angels, this time across the Adriatic sea to the woods near Recanti. Because the woods were named after its proprietress Laureta, the chapel's name in Latin is sacellum gloriosæ Virginis in Laureto. In 1295, it was slightly moved for repairs to it's current spot nearby.

Non-Angelic Tradition

A second tradition holds that the linguistic origins of the story are arised from a family called the "Angelos" who were responsible for the transfer of the house from Nazareth to the current location. In this version, the house had been dismantled by the family in 1294 as a wedding gift from Nikephoros the Ruler of Epirus from the Angelos family as a wedding gift for his daughter that had married the son of the King of Naples. The traditional date falls into line with the timeline as the port of Acre fell only six days later, allowing for enough time for the stones to be shipped.

Arguments for the Historical proof of the House

Several archaeological proofs have been submitted that the Holy House is indeed authentic:

  • The House is built of two types of limestone found in Nazareth but not in Loreto or Marche

  • The mortar between the stones is very typical of 1st century Palestine

  • the graffiti matches graffiti discovered at the Grotto of the Annunciation in Nazareth

  • The House has no foundations, standing directly on dusty ground that had not been cleared

  • The three-wall House fits exactly the measurements of foundations found in front of the Grotto in Nazareth, including those of a missing wall

  • The Holy House is placed partly onto a public road that connects Recanati with Porto Recanati (this would meet the Angelic tradition as it forced administrators to build a sudden detour for the road

  • The survival of a three wall structure that lacks foundations and is placed partly on top of a ditch defies physics

The Basilica around the Holy House was built in 1486 but was sacked by Napoleon's troops in 1797. The soldiers took the majority of the treasures including the Black Madonna. In 1821, the Madonna was returned from the Louvre to Rome and it's treasury filled again.

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